It is true; we are our children’s first teachers. The beauty is they are our teachers. My son will be one at the end of the month, and I am amazed at how much I have learned from him. What follows are ten lessons from my first year as a mom.
1. Sometimes, we need to scream.
It is no secret that babies holler and scream. Crying is their primary tool for communicating (and yes, you learn to decipher the meaning of different cries). When frustrated, sick, or angry, he cries loudly. He has his moment and moves on to whatever interests him next.
As adults, we are burdened with various pressures. Career, family, parenting, relationships, systemic trauma, etc, impact us. Life can get heavy, and I’m convinced if, as a society, we’d let ourselves have a moment to scream without being seen as unstable, we’d be better off. If we consider how often road rage, fights, and altercations occur, we would recognize that many of us yearn for the space to release. Micah confirms that sometimes an audible wailing is necessary to move forward. Lesson two discusses emotions further.
2. Honor Your Big Emotions
Lessons one and two complement one another. Life can be stressful, and even more stressful, as a caregiver. Adding systemic issues such as reproductive rights, racism, sexism, the wealth gap, etc., overwhelms many people. Studies show that the majority of Americans across economic levels are stressed.
My son has moments where it seems like his little world is crumbling. For instance, when the child-gate is locked, which indicates he cannot play in the kitchen. A meltdown ensues. Not sharing kitchen space and being able to play freely is a big deal for him. When was the last time you truly honored your big emotions? When something truly bothers you, invite yourself to feel it instead of brushing it off. After my son has a moment to express his frustration, he is back to playing somewhere else. How many of us could bounce back if we took the time to feel what we needed to feel?
3. We Can Ease The Effects Of Our Problems With a Song or a Dance Break
Of course, I know we cannot solve world hunger, human trafficking, and gun violence with a song or dance. However, music therapy and sound healing exist for a reason. Music evokes feelings, and moving our bodies gets our endorphins up. What’s your go-to response when faced with conflict? What if we pause and allow ourselves to be silly or express ourselves with a song or dance when we want to give choice words? I think we’d be able to fix some things personally and communally.
When I worked at a school, a colleague implemented a 30-second dance break at the same time every day. Sometimes we’d invoke an impromptu dance break when things got too stressful, and though immediate problems were not solved, the respite and fun reminded us that sometimes you have to shake it out, bonus points for dancing to Beyonce.
If ‘You’re Happy And You Know It’ does this for Micah. It instantly gets him out of a crying spell. So, the next time you’re overwhelmed, play your favorite song, get off your butt, and shake it. You may feel better. Speaking of feeling better, the next lesson will boost your mood.
4. Play And Awe Are Tools We Take For Granted
We take ourselves seriously, don’t we? Okay, maybe it is just me. My son reminds me how playing and being silly make life sweeter. Micah’s laughter is easily one of my favorite sounds. It soothes me. Children are wired to play, and they will play with anything. Brooms, laundry, your books, and God help me, the trash can. Everything is new to babies, so the awe factor occurs constantly. Play is simply exploring, and being in awe is simply seeing something with fresh eyes. Children can find joy in the simplest things. It reminds me to look at our world with more awe and wonder, and that begins with gratitude.
5. Patience Is That Girl
I don’t know about you, but patience is my least favorite virtue. Patience and I are acquaintances. It does not help that I am an only child. When Micah came along, I had to learn to befriend her and make her my best friend. Children strip all of your to-do lists; they halt plans (long-term and in the moment). Having a child at the center of your world is a considerable adjustment; everything changes, but I quickly learned the best tactic was lovingly practicing patience and relinquishing the need for everything to go as planned. Modeling patience has also helped me to stay present.
6. Being Present is a Gift
Over the course of a year, Micah has changed so much. A friend told me to take pictures daily. I took her advice, and wow, I am blown away by how much he has changed. His features, abilities, and personality have grown significantly this year. I had an honor many parents do not get. I have been able to care for Micah every day since his birth. Now, when you’re in the weeds of being a stay-at-home caregiver, with little help, it can be exhausting and joyous all in one.
However, being present with him has been one of life’s greatest gifts. I could have spent this year preoccupied with work and other demands, but I leaned in and immersed myself in this experience. Initially, I felt that having only a little support was a burden, but I recognized it as a gift over time. And because of that, I could be there for unforgettable firsts – like his first word, crawl, and first steps.
7. We’re All just Learning as We Go, And That is Okay
No matter how many books we read, research we uncover, or parent experts we follow, nothing truly equips us for parenting. Each child is uniquely different. For this job, we learn as we go. We get better in the throes of it. And with a ton of trial and error, parenting can heal the need for perfection. There were and are times when I felt unprepared, ill-equipped, or could have done something different. And it’s okay.
Over time, you’ll gain more tools and learn what works and what doesn’t. I’m probably only going to do this one time, but moms of multiple children will tell you we’re all just learning as we go.
8. Clap For Yourself; Life is a Gift
With the Black maternal health rates and statistics for Black women’s postpartum depression, Micah’s healthy, vibrant life reminds me that life is a gift. It truly is spectacular to have the opportunity to create an environment that allows a little humans to flourish and nurture the talents that are in them. We shape their world and the foundation for which they will build a life—what a sacred, joyous gift.
My son knows how to clap his hands and is not shy about celebrating when he does something new or has done something well. He closes the door and claps. Micah puts away a toy (clap, clap)! He helps his parents with a task; you get it; the clapping of hands commences. Like him, we have to celebrate our significant or small-scale milestones. Doing this increases our ability to appreciate life every step of the way.
9. In Life, You Learn How to Bounce Back From Pain, Consistently
Some women have the life they dream of when they have their first child. They have their loving partner/spouse, their career, and their dream house, but… I did not. Micah arrived during a painful season in my relationship with his father, which worsened even after his birth. I experienced postpartum depression. Even still, Micah has known such deep love from his parents during this first year of life. At times Micah falls while playing, and like all babies, he bounces right back after a bit of love, almost as if he has forgotten that he was hurt. Babies are not bitter. And that is my biggest lesson this year. When pain arises, tend to it, and bounce back. Most of all, I won’t allow it to make me bitter.
10. Humanity Is Inherently Good
Children bring with them hope. Holding my son for the first time is a moment I will never forget. Having faced the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, he lay there in my arms as a reminder that we all come into the world innocent. We come here as good creations, flaws and all. Holding him, I empathized with God by seeing what I had made and declaring it good. We come here as an expression and extension of love. We are shaped by life’s experiences – the good and the difficult. Children are, by extension, a product of the environment in which they are raised. Life and experiences shape us and may alter us even, but at our core, we are God’s good creation. And no matter where we find ourselves, we can always return to that.
My bonus lesson is We Need A Village. I survived my first year as a parent because of the village surrounding me. Motherhood is a wildly encompassing journey. Every day, I’m reminded how much I am built for it.
I’m looking forward to a lifetime of lessons. Drop a line and tell me the lessons motherhood has taught you in the comments.